State v. Sarrabea, 12–1013.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
Writing for the CourtCOOKS, Judge.
Citation157 So.3d 1
PartiesSTATE of Louisiana v. Alexis SARRABEA.
Docket NumberNo. 12–1013.,12–1013.
Decision Date01 May 2013

157 So.3d 1

STATE of Louisiana

No. 12–1013.

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit.

May 1, 2013.

Chad Ikerd, 15th Judicial District Public Defender's Office, Lafayette, LA, for Defendant/Appellant, Alexis Sarrabea.

157 So.3d 2

Colin Clark, Assistant Attorney General, Baton Rouge, LA, Mark Garber, Assistant District Attorney, Lafayette, LA, for Appellee, State of Louisiana.

Court composed of Judges SYLVIA R. COOKS, JOHN D. SAUNDERS and JIMMIE C. PETERS.

COOKS, Judge.


Alexis Sarrabea (Defendant), was charged by bill of information with driving without documentation demonstrating his lawful presence in the United States, a violation of La.R.S. 14:100.13, which provides:

A. No alien student or nonresident alien shall operate a motor vehicle in the state without documentation demonstrating that the person is lawfully present in the United States.
B. Upon arrest of a person for operating a vehicle without lawful presence in the United States, law enforcement officials shall seize the driver's license and immediately surrender such license to the office of motor vehicles for cancellation and shall immediately notify the INS of the name and location of the person.
C. Whoever commits the crime of driving without lawful presence in the United States shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars, imprisoned for not more than one year, with or without hard labor, or both.

Defendant, a thirty year-old man, is a Spanish speaking person who does not speak or read English. The record does not contain any other facts concerning Defendant such as his country of origin.1 The facts of record only indicate the State of Louisiana alleges it could prove Defendant is either “an alien student or an (sic ) non-resident alien,” who operated a motor vehicle in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, “without documentation demonstrating that he was lawfully present in the United States.” The record does not provide any factual basis for the police approaching Defendant, nor any basis which would establish probable cause for arresting Defendant. Additionally, the record does not provide any information on Defendant's immigration status other than to indicate Defendant was involved in the federal immigration process at the time of his arrest and at the time he entered his plea.

Defendant first entered a plea of not guilty, but, after spending more than three months in the parish jail, Defendant changed his plea to a no-contest plea. The State agreed in exchange for Defendant's no-contest guilty plea, it would recommend he receive a sentence of three months with credit for time served. Defense counsel stated on the record Defendant was entering his plea reserving his right to appeal several issues of law concerning the constitutionality of the state statute, and/or the constitutionality of applying the statute under which he was prosecuted, expressly stating “[I]t's in his best interest at this point to accept the plea so that he can move on in the Federal immigration process.”

Defendant specifically asserted at the guilty plea hearing that La.R.S. 14:100.13 is preempted by federal law; it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution; it is over-broad and vague; and it potentially violates the provisions of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Defendant was sentenced

157 So.3d 3

to three months in the parish jail, with credit for time served, concurrent with any other sentence he was serving at the time.

On appeal, Defendant asserts the following assignment of error and separates the assignment into four separate issues:

The trial court erred in entering a judgment convicting the Appellant for Operating a Vehicle without Documentation of Lawful Presence because the State of Louisiana does not have the authority to require drivers to prove, with documentation, that they are lawfully in the United States. State trial courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate this statute.
Issues Presented for Review
I. Did Officer Matt Broussard have any lawful authority for arresting and booking Alexis Sarrabea into the Lafayette Parish jail on probable cause that he was an undocumented immigrant driving in Lafayette Parish?
II. In light of the recent United States Supreme Court case, Arizona v. United States, [No. 11–182, 2012 WL 2368661] [––– U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 2492, 183 L.Ed.2d 351] ( [U.S. June 25,] 2012), is Louisiana's law requiring motor vehicle operators to carry proof that they are lawfully present unconstitutionally preempted by federal law, which denies Louisiana trial courts subject matter jurisdiction to convict persons under the law?
III. Does Louisiana's law unconstitutionally regulate immigration by creating a pervasive law which practically excludes all undocumented aliens from Louisiana by making it improperly difficult for them to move around the state for work or basic necessities?
IV. Does Louisiana's law create a scheme for regulating immigration and aliens which is impermissible under the federal constitution?


Defendant entered a guilty plea preserving his right to seek review of specified issues2 pursuant to State v. Crosby, 338 So.2d 584 (La.1976). In Crosby, the court held in pertinent part:

[E]ven an unqualified plea of guilty does not preclude review of what are regarded as ‘jurisdictional’ defects—those which, even conceding the accused's factual guilt, do not permit his conviction of the offense charged. These include, for example: the lack of jurisdiction of the sentencing court, La.C.Cr.P. art. 362(1) ; the conviction represents double jeopardy, La.C.Cr.P. art. 362(2), State ex rel. Wikberg v. Henderson, 292 So.2d 505 (La.1974) ; Menna v. New York, 423 U.S. 61, 96 S.Ct. 241, 46 L.Ed.2d 195 (1975) ; the prosecution, when instituted, had prescribed, La.C.Cr.P. art. 362(7), see also State ex rel. Williams v. Henderson, 289 So.2d 74 (La.1974) ; the state lacked constitutional or legal power to try the accused for the offense charged, Blackledge v. Perry, 417 U.S. 21, 94 S.Ct. 2098, 40 L.Ed.2d 628 (1974) ; State ex rel. Jackson v. Henderson, 283 So.2d 210 (La.1973) ; the statute under which the prosecution is brought is unconstitutional,State v. Bergeron, 152 La. 38, 92 So. 726 (1922) ; the charge brought by the indictment does not constitute a crime, State v. Watson, 41 La.Ann. 598, 7 So. 125 (1889) ; certain types of patent
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error preventing conviction for the offense, La.C.Cr.P. art. 920(2), see indicative listing at State v. Guillot, 200 La. 935, 9 So.2d 235, 239 (1942).

Id. at 586–589 (emphasis added).

We note in the record Defendant did not file a motion to quash the bill of information on the basis that the statute was unconstitutional, thus the trial court made no ruling on this issue. Generally, Crosby pleas allow a defendant to

preserve his right to seek review of a trial court's pretrial rulings. Although in this case there was no pretrial ruling on this issue, Defendant expressly preserved his right to raise several issues regarding the constitutionality of this statute on appeal, and it is therefore properly before this court on appeal. In State v. Flores, 27,736, p. 3 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2/28/96), 669 So.2d 646, 649, the court explained in pertinent part:

Attacks on the constitutionality of a statute may be made by two methods. The statute itself can be challenged, or the state's application to a particular defendant can be the basis of the attack. Constitutional challenges may be based upon vagueness. State v. Gamberella, [633 So.2d 595 (La.App. 1st Cir.1993), writ denied, 94–0200 (La.6/24/94), 640 So.2d 1341 ] supra; State v. Walker, 26,026 (La.App.2d Cir.5/4/94), 637 So.2d 583, writ denied, 94–1369 (La.9/30/94), 642 So.2d 868.

In this case, Defendant challenges the statute itself. Additionally, in Flores, 669 So.2d at 649, the court explained in pertinent part:

[T]he Louisiana Supreme Court has consistently held that the facial unconstitutionally of a statute on which a conviction is based is an error discoverable by the mere inspection of the pleadings and proceedings, without inspection of the evidence. This issue is subject to appellate review under La.C.Cr.P. Art. 920, even though the defendant did not raise the issue in the trial court and did not comply with the assignment of error procedure in La.C.Cr.P. Art. 844 or with the contemporaneous objection rule of La.C.Cr.P. Art. 841. State v. Hoofkin, 596 So.2d 536 (La.1992) ; State v. Stewart, 325 So.2d 828 (La.1976), cert. denied, 425 U.S. 997, 96 S.Ct. 2213, 48 L.Ed.2d 822 (1976). Also, the defendant is entitled to raise this issue, even though

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1 practice notes
  • State v. Sarrabea, 12–1013.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • 1 Mayo 2013
    ...157 So.3d 1STATE of Louisianav.Alexis SARRABEA.No. 12–1013.Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit.May 1, Reversed. PreemptedLSA–R.S. 14:100.13 Limited on Preemption GroundsLa.R.S. 32:409.1 Chad Ikerd, 15th Judicial District Public Defender's Office, Lafayette, LA, for Defendant/Appella......
1 cases
  • State v. Sarrabea, 12–1013.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • 1 Mayo 2013
    ...157 So.3d 1STATE of Louisianav.Alexis SARRABEA.No. 12–1013.Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit.May 1, Reversed. PreemptedLSA–R.S. 14:100.13 Limited on Preemption GroundsLa.R.S. 32:409.1 Chad Ikerd, 15th Judicial District Public Defender's Office, Lafayette, LA, for Defendant/Appella......

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